10 Influential Hospitality Leaders That You Should Be Following

One of the best ways to stay up on the hottest trends and best practices in your industry is by following industry leaders on their social media accounts. This is also an excellent strategy for finding inspiration and guidance for your own marketing efforts. Additionally, many of the most successful individuals in the hospitality industry also share advice and perspectives on managing their careers or work-life balance, which can help any professional thrive. Here are 10 of the brightest minds in the hospitality industry, in no particular order:

Stephanie Ricca

Follow Stephanie on Twitter: @HNN_Steph

Stephanie is the editorial director at Hotel News Now and has been a hotel trade journalist for more than 12 years. She is known for having impartial opinions and giving excellent analyses on the global hotel industry. In her role, she sets the content direction for Hotel News Now and its extensive suite of newsletters and web content. She also helps manage the multimedia editorial calendar. On her social media accounts, she shares interesting and insightful hotels and travel news. If you are a hotel owner or marketer, she is one you won’t want to miss.

The latest from Stephanie:

Bruce Faber

Follow Bruce on LinkedIn

Bruce has been in the hospitality industry since a young age – age 4, as a greeter in his grandmother’s restaurant, the Rathskeller in Chicago, Illinois. After graduating from school, Bruce began working for Levy Restaurants as a manager. Throughout his 9-year tenure with Levy Restaurants, he was promoted to General Manager and then Managing Partner. In 2008, Bruce joined the EHS Hospitality Group as the owner of the Chicago Market. Although he specializes in the Chicago market, his office also works with areas throughout the U.S. As an owner, he works to supply his clients with top talent in the hospitality industry. To keep a pulse on that talent, he maintains a comprehensive database of the industry’s top leaders at every level and shares their content from his social media channels. Consider Bruce’s channels a hospitality RSS-feed, with his own expertise mixed in from time-to-time.

The latest about Bruce:

Colby Hutchinson

Follow Colby on LinkedIn

If you get your inspiration from folks who started from the bottom – look no further than Colby Hutchinson. He has held nearly every position in the hospitality industry – from dishwasher to now serving as the director of customer experience and brand management administrator for Best Western Hotels and Resorts.

Follow him on LinkedIn, where he writes critiques and shares links to articles that relate to customer experience and marketing, as well as issues that could affect the entire hotel industry.

The latest from Colby:

Loren Gray

Follow Loren on Twitter: @lorengray

If you are on the revenue management side of the hospitality industry, Loren Gray is a must-follow. Loren is currently the founder of the Hospitality Digital Marketing agency. Previously, he was the Vice President of Digital Strategy for Standing Dog Interactive, which is an agency that focuses on integrating all aspects of digital marketing into one strategy. Before that, he was the director of e-commerce for Ocean Properties Ltd., which is one of the largest privately held hotel franchises in North America. He is an excellent resource for all things hospitality digital marketing and finance related.

He hosts a “Week in Hospitality Marketing” online show. The show covers tools and techniques, recent industry news and real-world case studies with actionable how-tos with the insights hospitality leaders need to know and how it could impact their business. This show is geared towards owners, managers, asset managers, as well as sales and marketing folks in the hospitality industry. Loren makes it a point to cover all verticals within the industry including restaurants, spas, hotels, and attractions. Loren reminds followers about the show each week on social media – so be sure to follow if you don’t want to miss an episode!

Playbacks for episodes are also available on a quarterly basis.

The latest about Loren:

Chip Conley

Follow Chip on Twitter: @ChipConley

If you’ve ever stayed at (or worked at, or owned) a boutique hotel, you owe some gratitude to Chip. Chip is one of the iconic founders of the modern boutique hotel movement, and he is an undisputed expert in the hospitality industry.

What makes Chip stand out is his ability to adapt very well to societal changes that impact the hospitality industry. He recognizes innovation and change within the industry before those changes become trendy.

In addition to boutique hotels, Chip is a strategic advisor for Airbnb. In addition to his expertise in hospitality, Chip also serves as a mentor and speaker for middle-aged businesspeople. As such an influential person within the hospitality industry, Chip’s account is a one to follow.

More about Chip:

Chris Willard

Follow Chris on LinkedIn

Chris Willard is the owner and director of marketing and hospitality for Crown Choice Inc. He also serves as Event Coordinator for Black Rose Hospitality. He has worked in several of the leading U.S. markets including New York City and Las Vegas, which has helped him develop a keen eye for detail. Chris also founded a non-profit organization, 2 Hands 2 Employ, that helps to educate and employ those who may need help in the hospitality industry. Part of the organization offers internships to help young professionals launch their careers in the hospitality industry – especially hotels and restaurants.

With so much experience in the industry and a big heart, Chris is clearly one to follow, especially for those in the hotel and restaurant verticals.

The latest on Chris:

Lindsey Ueberroth

Follow Lindsey on Twitter: @lueberroth

Lindsey is the CEO of Preferred Hotels & Resorts and also a member of its Board of Directors. Lindsey became CEO in 2004, and since that time, she has helped solidify the company into an iconic hospitality brand. In 2015, Lindsey led the rebrand from Preferred Hotel Group to Preferred Hotel & Resorts, which lead to generating more than $1 billion in reservations revenue on behalf of its member hotels, which was a 15% increase over the prior year. This success led to Lindsey being named as one of the 30 most influential women in the hospitality industry. She has also been named one of the 10 most noteworthy hoteliers in the world by HOTELS magazine and one of the 20 most influential females in the lodging industry by Lodging Magazine.

She uses social media as a vehicle to promote sustainable travel and how to better embrace work-life balance.

The latest from Lindsey:

Edward Mady

Follow Edward on Twitter: @EdwardMady

Edward Mady is the top manager of one of the most iconic and well-known hotels in the world – The Beverly Hills Hotel. He has received countless awards, and is known for inspiring teams and delivering growth. In addition to being a hotel manager, he is a business coach and mentor. He is also a leading author and speaker who has been recognized by Harvard Business Review, Fast Company, and Forbes. In 2017, he was named Hotelier of the World by Hotels Magazine.

Edward uses social media to encourage teamwork in the industry. He encourages other hospitality professionals to utilize their teams for ideas and inspiration. He also makes sure his own team members are recognized and valued. If you are a leader or aspire to be one, Edward can be an excellent source of inspiration.

The latest from Edward:

Aliya Khan

Follow Aliya on Instagram: @aliyazk

If you’re looking for interior design inspiration in the hospitality industry, be sure to follow Aliya Khan. Aliya is the Vice President of Global Design Strategies for Marriott International. Prior to working for Marriott, Aliya was a designer for W Hotels and Aloft Hotels. She went on to work for Starwood Hotels as a Sr. Manager of Design and then was promoted to Director of Renovations. She then worked as Global Director of Design and Development at NeueHouse until taking her role at Marriott. In addition to her role at Marriott, she is a speaker at conferences.

She has lived in six cities of the world, and she brings that experience into her designs. She also has degrees in Architecture and Industrial Design. On her social media accounts, Aliya gives you a sneak peek into upcoming hotel projects as well as the inspiration she finds in the world around her.

The latest about Aliya:

Ian Schrager

Follow Ian on Instagram: @ianschrager

Ian Schrager is a hospitality visionary. He has worked as a nightclub owner, hotelier, designer, restauranteur, and more. Despite his extensive work in the hospitality industry, Ian considers himself as being in the entertainment business. He is also the co-founder of the world-famous Studio 54 nightclub. He is also known as one of the co-creators of the boutique hotel movement.

On his social accounts, he posts things that entertain him, spanning from the humorous and beautiful. He often posts images and videos that he not only likes, but that also inspires him and what you’ll find in his hotels.

The latest from Ian:

Final Thoughts

When looking to social media for inspiration, it is best to follow a wide mix of individuals who vary outside of your vertical, or your specialty within the vertical. We have chosen 10 who are fairly active on social media who come from a variety of backgrounds and positions within the industry. However, there are hundreds of other social media accounts relating to the hospitality industry that can also be a source of inspiration for you.

One of the best parts of working within the hospitality industry is that most professionals are willing to help and share information and ideas. By contributing to and following up on the thought-leading activity in the industry, you can ensure your success within the industry. Many of these professionals also share their personal struggles and advice for overcoming and managing those, and that can always be helpful, even if they are outside of your hospitality specialty.

Restaurant Marketing Ideas for 2020

The restaurant industry has historically been among one of the most competitive industries. In today’s digital marketing landscape, this has never been truer.

When advertising your restaurant online, you’re not just competing against other restaurants to get your ads in front of your potential customers. You’re competing against millions of brands that are targeting the exact same individual.

This article showcases 7 ways you can get in front of potential customers and keep your existing customers loyal in 2020.

1. Messenger Marketing

With modern technology, wearable devices, and a phone in every pocket, it should be a no-brainer that restaurant marketing tactics should evolve as well. The days of generic direct mail campaigns to the masses are gone. These types of marketing campaigns were very difficult to track, and would often result in wasted money.

Messenger marketing for restaurants is a great new way to engage with your audience, track their behavior and purchases, and bring in predictable revenue on a monthly basis. Using applications like ManyChat or MobileMonkey you can set up these campaigns for your own restaurant. They can be fairly complicated, however, so it may be worth working with a restaurant marketing consultant to get help.

Even a simple Messenger Marketing campaign generated over $16,000 in revenue for a restaurant over the course of 4 months.

2. Free Wi-Fi

If you aren’t offering Wi-Fi in your restaurant – or you are just freely giving it away – you are making a huge mistake.

Don’t charge your customers money for the Wi-Fi. Instead, they require them to sign up with their phone number and email address.

This is a fairly inexpensive way to boost your customer remarketing list – plus offering Wi-Fi is another perk for your customers. On your form, you can notify them that they’ll be opting into email communications automatically, but they are free to unsubscribe any time. Then you can send emails about sales, new menu items, and friendly reminders about how awesome your restaurant is.

You can also ask them if they would like to receive text messages from your brand.

3. Text Message Marketing

Text message marketing has been on the rise for a few years now, but brands are still trying to figure out how to use it to their advantage. The key with text message marketing is to hit your customers frequently enough that they keep you top of mind, but not so often that you become a nuisance.

There are also a lot of privacy laws that apply to this type of marketing, so it is critical that you get your customers’ permission (and a second opt-in) before you start utilizing this channel.

Once you have a customer list, you can advertise your sales or promotional menu items. There are a lot of third-party text messaging providers to choose from. Several of them are budget-friendly. Some of them may even integrate with your POS system. It is critical to shop around for the best bang for your buck with any technology platform – but that is especially true for text message marketing.

4. Push Notifications

If your restaurant has an app, you are likely already utilizing push notifications. However, if it doesn’t, or you aren’t, here are a few examples for when to use them:

  • When a customer is near your restaurant
  • When you have a sale or coupon code
  • When you release a new or promotional menu item
  • When they have not visited your restaurant in a specific amount of time

If you do not have an app and are not interested in creating one, you can set these up as browser notifications. Browser notifications are slightly less effective because they are designed for the desktop instead of mobile. However, if you’re mostly serving a lunch crowd – it could be worth sending a lunch reminder push notification out to your potential customers.

5. Delivery

Delivery is king in the restaurant industry at this time, and there are no indications that that is going to change in the next couple of years. Some restaurants are attempting to fight the inevitable, and it isn’t going well for them. Still, others are doing the bare minimum by simply pairing with a 3rd-party food delivery service but that may not be a great strategy either.

Delivery is king in the restaurant industry at this time

Yes, you should consider partnering with a food delivery service, but you must also make sure your food (or at least the food you allowed to be ordered through the service) is still delicious when it arrives. Too many restaurants are offering their entire menu without any modifications, and it is preventing their growth.

If the budget allows, it is also worth offering promotions or even purchasing ads through these delivery services so that your restaurant is sure to be seen. Many of the delivery services will remind customers of restaurants they have ordered from or browsed in the past so that extra marketing boost can help offset the cost of the service.

Several restaurants also offer promotions for new customers, such as free delivery. You’ll want to explore your promotional opportunities with each third-party vendor before settling on one specifically.

6. In-Store Kiosks

Several fast-food chains have started incorporating in-store kiosks already, and this is another trend we expect to see growth over time. Customers enjoy being able to customize their orders without having to talk to a person. They also help increase accessibility at your restaurant.

Additionally, in-store kiosks give you the opportunity to collect additional data that restaurant owners have not had access to before. For example, you can collect data about the most-viewed menu items, even if they aren’t ordered the most. That type of insight encourages you to change an ingredient in that menu item to make it more appealing.

Many in-store kiosks also partner with the POS for aggregate data about specific customers. This means you can personalize your marketing efforts in a new way. Imagine being able to send an email or text to a specific customer, advertising a discount on an item you already know they love.

Although the initial cost is high, there is also a decrease in labor costs associated with a kiosk. It is certainly something worth looking into this year.

7. Community Events

People are also placing higher importance on brands who do “good” and restaurants do not fall out of this category. While it’s great if you can source all local ingredients and recycle practically everything, that may not be realistic.

Another route to consider is utilizing brand activation ideas such as getting involved in local community events and sponsoring charity events. These can seem like losses, but they can do a lot to boost your reputation in your local community.

If you aren’t sure where to start, contact your local school systems and see if they are interested in doing a “Dine and Donate” event. Basically they pick a day and anyone who brings in a flyer for the event on that day (or mentions the promotion if you don’t really want to collect dozens of flyers) your restaurant would donate a percentage of the check to the organization.

While you certainly shouldn’t do this too often so that it isn’t sustainable, it can be a great way to get in front of new customers while building goodwill and a solid reputation in the community.

Things to Keep Doing

We’ve also put together a shortlist of items that you should already be doing by now. If you aren’t, make these marketing efforts urgent priorities. While you may not be able to incorporate all of them right away, you’ll certainly want to tackle a majority of them by the end of 2020.

Advertise Your Restaurant on Social Media

Yes, there are a lot of brands advertising on social media already. However, most social media advertising platforms do offer pretty specific targeting options, which means you have a good shot of getting in front of your customers.

Because competition is so high, social media advertising should not be your only marketing strategy. However, it definitely needs to be part of your restaurant marketing mix.

Facebook is the largest social media marketing platform – and for good reason. Facebook also has the most users. One of the best parts of Facebook advertising is the audience targeting options. You can choose customers based on their locations, and/or their demographics. If you have an idea of who your target market is, this can be invaluable.

You also have the option to target an audience based on their interests. That means if you’re a vegan restaurant, you can target users who have expressed interest in veganism. If you are a burger and fries place, you can target users who love a good sandwich.

Another great component of Facebook advertising specifically is that you also have the ability to create specialized ads when a potential customer is near your restaurant. This can mean if they are a few blocks away to within a certain zip code. This type of targeting is great because it can also help you get in front of potential customers who may just be visiting the area instead of only those who live nearby.

Local SEO for Your Restaurant

Make sure your website is optimized for local SEO. This means optimizing your website so that you always rank in localized searches. This means making sure you’ve completed your Google My Business profile, and embedding a map on your site. You’ll also want to include your city name and state in titles, headers, and meta-descriptions within your site. While this sounds like a complex strategy, once you understand the concept of local SEO, it can be fairly straightforward to implement.

Manage Feedback

Online reviews greatly influence decisions when it comes to choosing a new restaurant to go to. While you can’t/shouldn’t delete negative reviews, you can respond to the guest’s comments and try to make bad experiences better.

You should also respond to positive reviews. This will create a relationship between your brand and the customer, which may encourage them to share their experience with your restaurant with their friends and family. You can also consider services such as Ovation to help you easily capture and manage feedback from your customers.

Restaurant Loyalty Programs

If you don’t already have a loyalty program in place, get one. There are several options out there. You might look to see if your POS system has one already. If your POS system does not, there are several third-party vendors you can try. Most of them are pretty affordable – and it is easy to calculate your return on your investment once you start tracking your loyal customers.

Some examples of third-party loyalty programs include Preferred Patron, ReUp, and Upserve.

Discount Apps

There are several restaurant discount apps out there such as ChowNow or Restaurant.com. You might even consider running a promotion on Groupon. This is an excellent way to draw in new customers as well as to remind past customers to come in again.

Print Advertising & Coupons

For almost all industries, print and coupons seem to be dying off. The two industries where that doesn’t seem to be the case are restaurants and grocery stores. If you are already sending coupons out to local residents, continue doing so. In fact, there are now several services available where you can send specialized coupons or letters to those who have just moved into your city or within certain zip codes.

If you haven’t implemented this strategy already, consider it. There is likely a coupon circulation in your area designed for local restaurants to advertise in.

In Closing

If you are interested in any of these marketing tactics but aren’t exactly sure how to set them up or which ones to prioritize, consider hiring a restaurant marketing agency or restaurant consultant. Restaurant consultants have likely worked with several restaurants in your area. They are already familiar with how to best get in touch with your target market.

A restaurant consultant can help you create an overall marketing plan for your business. Some restauranteurs consider hiring a general marketing firm to handle the promotion of their restaurant. However, they quickly discover that marketing or PR firms can be too expensive for one single restaurant. Your consultant will either handle your marketing directly or come up with a promotion and brand strategy utilizing outsourced agencies that the consultant is familiar with and trusts.

This marketing strategy can include everything from the overall restaurant concept to web design and the social media strategy. You will discuss your current marketing efforts and any that you wish to include in the upcoming year, and your restaurant consultant will balance your budget along with the typical efficacy of each tactic before helping you decide on a perfect strategy. Hiring a restaurant consultant can be an excellent way to boost your brand quickly, without having to make any marketing mistakes in the process.

10 Ways To Increase Your Hotel’s Direct Bookings

When it comes to increasing your hotel’s direct bookings, things can get a little tricky, and there are hundreds of tactics you could try. However, for this article, we are going to go over 10 ideas you should try first.

These are some ideas that some of the top hospitality brands are using around the world to increase the number of travelers booking directly through their hotel.

I realize that increasing your hotel bookings can be somewhat tedious and time-consuming; however, with these tips, perhaps the journey will be slightly easier to handle. At least, that’s my hope. How about we get started, shall we?

Make Your Hotel’s Website More User-Friendly

We live in the digital age of technology. Every year, more and more advanced technologies emerge to provide convenience to our lives. As such, we often need to change and adapt our approach to customers, and that includes how we deliver our services and experiences to our customers.

As such, for our first suggestion to make, we suggest reexamining how your hotel’s website is structured, and perhaps change it to better accommodate mobile and tablet users.

Additionally, not only are people on their phones more frequently than ever before, but they are also on the move. As such, making sure your website is mobile/tablet-friendly is one of the first suggestions I would offer to increase bookings at your hotel.

You should also consider the accessibility of your website. This means your website is designed and developed in such a way that those with disabilities can still use them; easily learning about your hotel, navigating through your site, and, ultimately, booking their stay with you.

Leverage Social Media For Advertisement and Hotel Bookings

Social media is one of the biggest and most lucrative forms of advertisement to have blossomed within the last decade. Even as I write this, millions upon millions of people flock to websites like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter every day.

As such, traditional advertising is slowly dying out in terms of profitability and reliability. Why pay thousands, if not millions of dollars for expensive TV ads and booking times when it can be far cheaper to advertise your hotel business through various social media websites.

Why pay thousands, if not millions of dollars for expensive TV ads and booking times when it can be far cheaper to advertise your hotel business through various social media websites.

Not only is social media advertising less expensive, but it offers an easy way for customers to directly interact with your hotel brand through a medium that is most familiar to them. In addition to this, social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter have massive audiences already built into the platforms, and people are more innately tied to these forms of communication now than ever before.

In my experience, people are willing to talk and interact with companies through social media accounts than any other types of communication because social media has become so user-friendly and simple to use. Because of this, enabling social media users to book directly via sites like Facebook might not be a bad addition to include, as well.

It’s no coincidence that I put this tactic alongside updates to your website; they are almost married to each other. If you can communicate with the modern-day patron through social media platforms, and have a wonderful and easy-to-use website for them to explore, you will certainly increase your direct booking rates.

Test Your Hotel’s Booking Process Yourself

Another idea to help raise your direct booking rates for your hotel is to check and see how smoothly the process is for your website. Test it yourself! Humans like it when things are simple and easy for them to handle; it is why most sites have a one-click purchase option now.

Humans like it when things are simple and easy for them to handle

As such, I know when I want to book a hotel, the last thing I want to see is menus and menus of tabs and rows going to different sites and or parts of the website. I cannot stress how annoying and frustrated I get when it takes me seemingly forever to make my hotel reservations after deciding on what hotel/brand I want to stay at for a trip.

I recommend reevaluating the process in which people have to go through to book their lodgings at your hotel. Maybe count the number of clicks the average customer needs to go through to secure their reservations, and then perhaps find a way to automate or lessen the amount of time it takes to see a reservation confirmation screen.

User Reviews, I Cannot Stress This One Enough, Allow Reviews

As much as we all fear the idea of people leaving a bad review on Yelp and dealing with the hassles of reputation management, it shows a lot about your character and as a company if you allow customers to leave direct reviews on your site. I cannot stress this one enough. That alone can mean a lot to customers.

Additionally, it not only shows a lot on your character if you have a means of letting people leave reviews on your website. It also means you have a direct method of gauging how people are taking to your hotel(s) right on the spot – saving them the time and energy of searching for that on other websites or listings.

Also, by allowing people to leave reviews on your website you have a means of showcasing real positive comments for other customers to see; meaning people visiting your site are more likely to give your business the time of day because they can see that other real people enjoyed staying with you.

Finally, when you allow customers to leave reviews, this opens the door for them to leave valued compliments and criticism that every business needs. That criticism will be important, especially leading into the next section regarding the handling of grievances.

Address and Remove Previous Customers Grievances

Another benefit that can come from on-site user reviews is finding out what it is that they did not like about your hotel, thus not only do they feel validated in letting you know what they may or may not like about your hotel, but it also gives you more concrete information on both them and your business. Just this simple addition can help boost your direct booking rates.

By tackling customers grievances, you help show not only to them but to all of your customers that you are not only willing to hear what they have to say about your business but also directly tend to those problems if necessary. People like to feel like their opinions matter giving them, yes sometimes their ideas can hurt to hear, especially when it comes to your business; but often their views and criticisms may be valid and worth evaluating.

People like to feel like their opinions matter giving them

By having a place where they can air out their grievances, such as a review or comment section, not only can they feel validated in leaving behind often just criticism about their experience at the hotel, they can then feel satisfied when their grievances are handled properly. Moreover, by seeing you handle their negative complaints with your hotel, (whatever that might be), this could encourage them to return for a night or two, maybe even with their friends and family.

At the end of the day, customer feedback is important and necessary. Embrace it, value it, address it, and move forward.

Make Your Hotel Sound and Appear Unique

Another idea I feel I should mention is something that I think every business owner tries to do with their business, and that is making it sound and look unique in comparison to the competitor down the street. This isn’t always easy, especially if you are working in an already over-saturated market. However, there are a number of things you can do to improve your position in the market.

One idea I have to share is to reward your customers for their patronage, perhaps give them discounts on future bookings and services due to their continued support to your place of business. Alternatively, another idea to offer VIP rewards for continued support, like discounts on hotel amenities.

There are ways to reward your customers for their continued support and dedication to your organization. Another idea I have is to allow individuals the luxury of bringing their dogs or cats with them via unique rooms or upscaled cost. Pet owners always appreciate it when hotels allow them to bring their pets with them.

I am positive there are more ways to make your hotel appear unique and offer tremendous value to your customers, so perhaps find those methods out there. Finding and providing those services to your patrons can be a tried-and-true way to increase your direct booking rates.

Focus On What You Can Offer Over Your Competitors

This ties back to the previous section on focusing on what you can offer your customers over your competition. Another way to entice people to spend their holidays at your hotel is via the location and the unique and singular properties it may be privy too over other sites.

For example, are you near a park or heavily trafficked area like a plaza? Then advertise that as a selling point, people like convenience, especially when traveling and on the road. So, if they know, they will be shopping or adventuring in an area, being there as a hotel can be a luxury for them, especially if they are traveling or passing by through parts unknown.

Let people know that after a long day of shopping and adventure that they have a nice cozy hotel room waiting for them not a mile away from them. Alternatively, maybe your hotel was once a historical landmark or site, and it has some artifacts dating back to an era long since past.

In all honesty, it took me a long time to learn why location matters when it comes to starting a business, and this is one of the reasons why. If you have any definite reason to advertise your particular hotel (especially if you are a small brand), then use it, my friends.

Make Sure Your Staff and Employees Are Happy and Content

Okay, the next topic I feel we should discuss is the overall happiness of your employees and why this ties directly into potential bookings for your hotel. Now, I am confident this is one of the first things that managers and business owners have to think about always when running a business, but it would be wrong of me not to make it a section onto itself.

When working in the service industry, especially with hotels, you want to make sure your guests are happy and content, that is how we get those fun five-star ratings on Yelp and other review sites. As such, making sure your staff is actually genuinely happy to be there clocking in those long hours, and not just tapping their foot against the ground trying to wait out the clock.

Additionally, by making sure your employees are happy, this will translate into your patrons being happy as well, mostly due to the fact that they are getting tremendous value from the service of your employees. Moreover, this has many benefits onto itself as we can see.

Furthermore, by allowing the word to spread about your fair treatment of your employees (and their terrific service towards their guests), that can potentially entice guests to book with your hotel as a result. So, it is a win-win situation when it comes to this topic. Your employees are your lifeblood, after all, so treating them right will in return, treat your guests right.

Your employees are your lifeblood.

Ensure Your Hotel’s Website is Easily Found and Relevant

Through all of these additions and suggestions, there are plenty of ways of not only improving your image in the eyes of the public but also improve your chances of increasing your direct booking rates in comparison to your competitors around the state and or country.

Consider hiring an SEO specialist who is capable of understanding the search algorithms of search engines such as Google. Someone who knows the exact methods of getting more people to visit your website.

SEO specialists are the individuals you want when it comes to not only figuring out how your website will work but also provide general tips and tricks on getting people to discover your website, book a room, and then, of course, visit your hotel.

Understand That It Takes Time

As much as we may hate hearing that words “patience” and “determination,” seeing success and growth is not a one-night ordeal. It is not something that will happen immediately, especially when it comes to trying to increase your direct hotel booking rate in comparison to your other competitors.

However, it can happen with time and effort. All I can hope for is that this shortlist has provided some methods to help you achieve your ultimate goals when it comes to your hotel.

Conclusion

With that said, there are countless tactics and approaches you could use to increase your hotel’s direct booking rate. It’s up to you to find out which work best for your property. I hope this short article provided some tips and tricks on growing your hotel’s booking rates, and in return, bring even more lovely patrons to your place of business.

Travel Guide: Autumn in the Ozarks

A friend of mine moved to California last year, and on a recent visit back to Springfield she told me that describing the town to California locals was difficult. “No one really knows what I’m talking about when I tell them how green it is here,” she said, “Or how different and down to earth the culture is.” While visiting, she wanted to do all of her favorite Springfield things, “We have to go to Millsap! Harvest is a must! Winery on Sunday?” But she hated that she was going to miss fall–the changing leaves, the activities, and gatherings, the chill that begins to bite the air–“there’s really nothing like it here,” she said, sighing and setting down the sweater that she’d brought “just in case.”

And it’s true–no matter how much I travel, or how many diverse towns I visit, there’s truly nothing like Springfield. We have the perfect mix of big-city offerings and Midwest charm. Our restaurant scene is competitive and the quality is astonishing for the size of the city. Over the last few years, the farms in and surrounding Springfield have begun offering unique dining opportunities that my friends in larger cities like Tulsa admit sadly that they don’t have access to. “Oklahoma just isn’t doing that yet,” they say, “regardless of the number of farms or diversity in dining options and chefs we have.”

To experience all of Springfield’s best would take months with the changing seasons coming into play. But fall might be the city at her best. We are graced with so many festivals both in the city and within arms reach in neighboring towns, making this season especially festive. Starting early is the key. My suggestion is to choose a weekend in mid to late September or anytime in October and discover autumn in the Ozarks with this 48-hour weekend guide.

Friday:

Arrive around 5 pm and check into Hotel Vandivort in downtown Springfield. Bask in the modern luxury for as long as you’d like, then take a walk (if you’re ready for a longer jaunt) or drive to Mother’s Brewing Company. The brewery has a myriad of different beers on tap that is only available in the tasting room. It’s their brown and imperial ales that really shine once the weather turns to cool instead of hot. Think of flavors of whiskey, raisin, rye, coconut, chocolate, and coffee; all the warm goodness you need to fight that chill in the air. If it’s the fourth Friday of the month, stick around for the once-a-month “Friday Flix” in Mother’s backyard. In that case, there will be food trucks, outside beer stations and either a cult classic or a culturally relevant film.

However, if it’s not the fourth Friday of the month, or you’re feeling like some elevated southern comfort food and jazz, head over to The Hepcat. Only a few blocks from Mother’s, heading east down McDaniel, turning left on Campbell, you will enter Springfield’s new and only jazz bar. The Hepcat is serving items like smoked-fried chicken, pickled shrimp, and twice-fried plantains, blackened shrimp and tomato-bacon gravy with grits, an apricot salad, and fried olives. The bar menu has complex cocktails for those that are looking for mixology at its finest, while at the same time there is a “Cheap Beer” list consisting of long-standing American classics like Hamm’s and Stag for $2.50. Suggestion: order the smoked-fried chicken and one of the cocktails that pique your interest and either see where the night takes you, or head back to your cozy room and crisp white sheets.

Saturday:

Take your time getting up in the morning (this is a mini-vacation anyway) and then head across the street to Gailey’s Breakfast Cafe for a slice of local flavor that will be very obviously popular by the hoards of people that will be waiting both in and outside. But don’t let that deter you; put your name on the list and pour yourself a cup of coffee at the Saturday-and-Sunday-only coffee station and settle in for conversation and delicious aromas. When you’re seated, read over everything, but note the skillet list. The skillets are part of the new menu items that were recently added and I’m in love with the “Big Bite Mike,” a skillet with ham, sausage, bacon, red and green peppers, red onion, mushroom on a bed of skillet potatoes and topped with eggs-your-way and queso.

While you’re taking your time with breakfast, start gathering a plan for which festival you’d like to visit. A few notable options include: 

Cider Days – a festival on Walnut Street in Springfield with arts and crafts vendors, food and beverage vendors and live music and dance performances.

Photos by Mt. Vernon Chamber of Commerce

Apple Butter Makin’ Days – this is an area favorite located in Mt. Vernon, MO. This is small-town goodness at it’s finest; a parade, craft vendors, an apple pie contest, a car show, live music and you can even stir the apple butter pot yourself. Mt. Vernon is a 43-minute drive west on 44. But if you want to really get into the spirit of a small-town adventure, take historic Route 66 west to Halltown and continue west on 96 until 39 where you’ll go south and land right in the heart of Mt. Vernon.

Glade Top Trail Flaming Fall Revue – this event takes place in Ava, MO in Mark Twain National Forest. Ava is an hour’s drive southeast of town with scenic, winding roads the entire way. At the festival expect food, music, a dessert auction, pumpkin and face painting and craft vendors. Once the festival comes to a close make sure to explore the National Forest while you’re in the area.

Once you’re back in town, check out Chicago Cheesesteak Company, a few doors down from the hotel. It’s a tiny hole in the wall and you won’t be disappointed. My favorite is the “Halle(peno) Berry” which comes with chicken or steak (choose steak), mozzarella, fresh grilled jalapenos, cream cheese and grape jelly. The fries are double-fried so they have that nice brown-ness and flavor that’s a rare find. If you’re looking for something to wash it down, head back to the hotel. The Order in Hotel Vandivort has an ever-changing cocktail list and an excellent wine and beer selection with many local breweries featured on tap. Enjoy yourself and then up to bed you go.

Sunday:

I suggest brunch in the Order for both deliciousness and convenience. Notable favorites are the “Circle B Overload” with Circle B Ranch bacon and sausage, bell pepper, onion, sweet potato fries, pepper jack, and chorizo gravy, or on the sweeter side the “Coffee and Salt Waffle Bowl” with a torn waffle, Askinosie cocoa powder, Coffee Ethic maple syrup, and house-made Scotch salt.

Once you’ve eaten and had your caffeine fix, grab your bags and let’s go on the last adventure of the weekend. Head north on Glenstone and into the country. You’ll veer slightly east on Highway KK, and then make an almost immediate right to stay on KK, you’ll then turn right again on Farm Road 171, and voila, there you are at Tyler Ridge Vineyard Winery. This is the only winery in the area that actually harvests its own grapes into wine. The vineyard is right there on property with all of the best Missouri grapes. You’re welcome to stroll through the rows and pick and eat the grapes you find. My favorite wines are the Vignoles–a semi-sweet white with a unique floral and citrus flavors–and the “Hickory Barren”–made with Chambourcin, a red grape, but then fermented like white wine, with the skin peeled. Because of the skin being peeled, this wine is pink and tastes faintly like a full-bodied red and luscious like a white sweet wine. Stay awhile and talk to the owners, Mike and Kathy, they’re kind and treat everyone that comes in like they’re family. They’ll likely want to know what you do and where you’re from and by the end, you’ll be long lost friends. The wine is outstanding, but the experience is heart-warming.

And bon voyage, you’re off to your next journey. Until next time, I hope that the colorful leaves, small-town country drives, and excellent food and drink have left you warm and merry. Visit our town again soon, and look for other itineraries and suggested trips right here in the future.


This article was written by Meredith Tatum, Author, and Co-Owner of Vibrant Space.

Top 5 Popular Restaurant POS Systems Roundup

In the last 10 years, cash registers have been completely replaced with something quicker and more high-tech, especially in restaurants: point-of-sale systems, or POS systems. They have become the new age cash registers. But not only do they accept payments, but they also track inventory, provide digital receipts, calculate sales data, manage employees, and more.

As a restaurateur, my job is to basically control the chaos and the drama. There’s always going to be chaos in the restaurant business.

Rocco DiSpirito

The data and insights you can gather from these POS Systems can also allow you to not only optimize and control your food costs but also help you improve your efforts related to customer loyalty programs, brand activation, and restaurant marketing efforts.

Additionally, the Top 5 POS systems being reviewed today work for a variety of small or large businesses. So, with the multitude of POS systems on the market now, how will you know which one is the best for your café or restaurant?

I hope this article helps shine some light on the options available, and you’ll be able to make an informed decision as to which Restaurant POS System will work for your specific needs.

TouchBistro

The TouchBistro POS system is operated on an iPad and is best for full and quick restaurant service. It also aids with increasing sales by providing you smarter business decisions based on your monthly sales data.

Pros: The best part about TouchBistro is that it is versatile for whatever food service you own; general restaurants, bars, coffee shops, food trucks, and more. Additionally, as stated beforehand, it can give business owners ideas on how to increase monthly sales by analyzing previous data and providing you with business ideas.

Finally, TouchBistro is very user-friendly and easy to use for both employees and customers. For one user license, it’s a reasonable price of $69 monthly.

Cons: because TouchBistro is operated by an iPad, an Apple device, this means that it is not compatible with Androids or other desktop computers.

Additionally, it can get quite pricey for restaurants that have multiple leadership job positions, meaning that if they need multiple user licenses for optimal business operation, it can cost anywhere from $129 to $400 a month.

Square

Square is another popular POS system that is usually seen in retail stores, mobile or small businesses, and smaller, quicker restaurants or cafes.

Pros: Just like TouchBistro, Square additionally is easy to use for both employees and customers and provides real-time sales data. What is different about Square though is that it provides inventory management, item tracking, and alerts when stock is low. 

Additionally, Square is compatible with most smart devices and the software is free, which is great for new businesses who are strictly Android users and want to skip out on buying new electronics. Therefore, this POS system would be great for keeping low costs.

Instead of charging you for its services and equipment, Square charges 2.75% of credit card revenue and 3.5% plus $0.15 revenue for keyed-in payments. This is another perk for those small businesses focusing on keeping a tight budget.

Cons: While Square is ideal for small restaurants and businesses, it isn’t for large, busy restaurants and businesses.

Additionally, while the software for Square is free, the processing fees can be high.

Lightspeed Restaurant

There are a few different versions of Lightspeed, but today we will be discussing Lightspeed Restaurant, which is the POS version that is ideal for restaurants instead of retail.

Pros: Lightspeed Restaurant is suitable for any sort of food service: restaurants, bars, cafes, food trucks, even takeout, and delivery businesses. Useful features include opening tabs and splitting bills, a floor planning option that allows immediate clarity on which tables are free, a “quick-serve” screen for busy hours, and a mobile ordering option which is considered legendary in the POS world. 

With this last feature, orders can be sent directly to the kitchen while giving customers plenty of payment options. Lightspeed still offers all these features for delivery businesses as well as the ability to process card payments while still on the road. Additionally, Lightspeed is very user-friendly and the price is reasonable, starting at $69 per month and increasing based on how many registers are needed.

Cons: Unfortunately, Lightspeed Restaurant is only compatible with Apple devices, with an iPad being most suitable for restaurants. Additionally, Lightspeed would not be ideal for large restaurants because their price model suggests that this POS system would function best with 1 to 5 registers.

It can handle more registers; however, the price becomes astronomical. It would also be a poor choice for large restaurants because the inventory and reporting features are not as extensive as other POS systems. Another downside of Lightspeed is that if there isn’t Wi-Fi available or if data is slow, then it will not process payments.

Upserve

Formerly known as Breadcrumb, Upserve was specifically created and designed by former managers, bartenders, baristas, and waiters, among many other employees who work in the foodservice industry. The goal of Upserve is to be a user-friendlyPOS system that is ideal for working with many of the common hospitality and restaurant issues.

Pros: A few useful features this POS system offers is table management, menu management, and restaurant management, online ordering directly from a customer’s table, processing all types of payments including written checks, and a partnership with GrubHub so that any restaurant who uses Upserve can have their food delivered anywhere.

Additionally, Upserve is compatible with both Apple and Android devices so anyone can use it without fear of having to invest in a new smart device. Another perk about Upserve is that it does not discriminate against restaurant size. Upserve is designed to adequately serve restaurants as big as the most popular steakhouse in town or as small as a hidden coffee shop.

Cons: Upserve is a more expensive POS system compared to others with its $99 monthly fees and $50 per each extra terminal license (Upserve includes one POS terminal license). In fact, while many users are impressed with Upserve’s system and features, many admit that it still seems a bit overpriced for what it offers.

Also, this POS system wouldn’t be ideal for food trucks because the system requires more pieces and more space to function properly. Finally, the last downside of Upserve is that it has been known for outages during some restaurants’ busy hours. It also experiences downtime during mandatory system updates that cause the whole system to be offline until all updates have been installed.

Toast

Toast is an all-around restaurant management system, meaning it isn’t just for taking money at the counter. Toast offers a full suite of business management options in addition to prioritizing the customer experience. The overall goal of toast is to ensure that employers and employees can focus on the things that matter rather than being bogged down by the time consuming, routine tasks.

Pros: Toast is an all-encompassing platform that includes systems to manage payroll, transactions, inventory, customer relationships, and online ordering. Toast has an easy-to-use system for ordering and employee management of customers’ orders. You’ll find that orders can be easily modified and reassigned to different staff members with relative ease. 

Whether you’re a large or small business, you’ll find that Toast will meet you where you’re at. Toast is easily scalable, and it will easily move with you from your first location to multiple as your business grows. These features will benefit you later when you have multiple employees and locations to manage and you can’t be at each location every day.  

Another reason that you’ll want to consider Toast is that it is a restaurant-specific platform. Unlike others, Toast is made with restauranteurs in mind. From small taco-stands to full-service restaurants, Toast has the flexibility to meet your needs.

Cons: Toast is, right now, an Android-specific system, which for loyal Apple users may be a drawback. It’s no secret that Apple devices are coveted for their prestige, consistency, and ease of use. For some, this will be a drawback and may steer users away from this platform. Toast is priced at $79/month and with installation and equipment costs that can cost up to $1200, you can consider Toast an investment in your business.

Wrapping it up

If you’re considering starting a restaurant, consider checking out one of these services. They’re more than your grandparents’ cash register of days gone by. These are sophisticated points of sale systems that help manage customer relationships by keeping track of their purchases and providing options for loyalty clubs and gift cards.

They streamline the ordering process by making order management easier from the time the customer places the order to send it to the kitchen. These modern points of sale also help management keep track of employee performance and hours worked and makes it easier to pay them, improving employee satisfaction and keeping management from having to spend needless time fretting over the payroll.

Finally, a POS system introduces modern technology into your workspace and enables future growth more easily through updates to your system and ease of replacement if something happens to your device.

If you’re in the restaurant business and don’t have a modern Point of Sale system, you should really consider one. Not only do they make almost everything easier, but they also save valuable time which can be spent on diving into your passion: providing good food and top-notch customer service so that you can achieve your dream of having the best food in town.

How to Calculate Room Cost – Hotel Revenue Management Tips

This article goes into detail about how to calculate room cost, and what that can mean for your hotel. For those who would prefer to watch, I’ve also created a video on this topic which you can watch below.

Finding the Right Number

Someone walks up to your hotel counter at 11:59 pm and says “You have 10 unoccupied rooms that are going to sit empty, and I need a place to stay. Here’s $20. It’s $20 more in the cash register that wasn’t there before.” Do you take it?

For successful revenue management for hotels, knowing how much it costs to put someone in a room is an important first step.

Knowing this number will let you know how low you can go when changing rates throughout the year. Restaurateurs will be familiar with this concept because they have to “plate food” or calculate how much each part of a given dish costs, then use that information to calculate how much to charge the guest.

Figuring how much it costs to rent out a room is a little bit of a tricky question because there are two answers. I’m going to explain both of the costs, the differences between them, and I’ll show you step-by-step how to calculate these for your property.

Incremental Cost

The first cost is called “incremental cost”. It doesn’t matter that you remember the name of this cost (you can even make up a name that helps you remember it), it’s just important that you understand the concept.

Remember our late-night guest standing at the counter offering us $20? If we reject his offer and leave a hotel room empty, we incur no additional incremental cost. Why? Incremental cost answers the question “What is used up if I rent a room to someone?”

Imagine this: the hotel owner’s family member has a house fire, so he lets them stay at the property for one night for free. It’s not free for the hotelier to let them stay there. He will incur additional costs. Those costs are the incremental costs. What will those guests “use up”?

Here’s a quick brainstorm list that you can add to:

  • Electricity (lights, TV, charging cell phones, AC/heat)
  • Water (washing hands, brushing teeth, showers, flushing toilets)
  • Wear & Tear (walking on carpet, sleeping on the bed, turning doorknobs, using lightbulbs)
  • Breakfast
  • Housekeeping (room must be cleaned after they leave, cleaning supplies used)
  • Laundry (sheets, towels)

Some people won’t include wear and tear, but then I give them this example: if a mattress costs $1,000 and is rated up to 1,000 nights before it needs to be replaced, then each night someone sleeps on that mattress they use up $1 of the lifetime value of that mattress. Although difficult to track this same scenario is playing itself out as guests sit in your chairs and walk on your carpet.

To calculate the incremental cost, look at your expenses from your P&L (Profit and Loss Statement) for the previous calendar year for the categories we mentioned above. Take that number and divide it by the number of room nights sold for the year and this will be your incremental cost to put someone in a room. (Spoiler alert: it’s usually about $20.)

Example: A hotel’s expenses for these categories is $200,000 and they sold 10,000 room nights last year. $200,000 ÷ 10,000 room nights = $20 incremental cost.

So, do we sell the late-night guest a room for $20?

Really, it’s just a waste of time to let him stay because you’re just spinning your wheels, not making any profit. You’re also training your customers to not pay the going rate for your property and to just wait until the last minute and give you a low offer.

On the other hand, it will put an additional $20 of revenue on the books. So if you’re getting ready to sell you want to have as much revenue on the books as possible (even if it’s not profit), because banks and buyers really like that.

Also, if it’s a slow time, taking that additional booking will give your housekeepers an additional room to clean.

So again… do you book the room? A revenue manager’s favorite answer is “Depends!” Feel free to reach out to me and let me know what you’d do.

Burdened Cost

We’re not done yet. The incremental cost is only half of the story. I’d like to introduce you to “burdened cost”.

Again, I don’t care if you remember the exact name for this (there isn’t going to be a test later). Call it whatever you want as long as you understand the principle. This cost is a full or complete, all-in cost. It is “burdened” with all of the costs a property incurs.

We’ve already addressed the day-to-day costs associated with what guests use up with the incremental cost. If you’re reading this, you’re likely a manager, front desk or office worker and I want to make sure you get paid. That’s where this cost comes in.

Burdened costs are costs that you have to pay whether you sell 1 room or 100 rooms.

You’re going to pay the maintenance worker to go check and adjust the pool levels every morning regardless of occupancy. You’re going to pay a Night Auditor to be at the front desk all night watching Netflix…I mean running end of day reports regardless of the number of rooms sold. With an incremental cost of $20, that means anything we take over that goes to help offset these constant costs. I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s stop and make a brainstorm list of burdened costs:

  • Staff (maintenance, front desk, management, breakfast attendant)
  • Mortgage
  • Insurance
  • Internet
  • Parking lot repair
  • New towels
  • Cable TV (Example: $10 per room per month regardless of occupancy)
  • Marketing
  • Trade shows
  • Chamber of Commerce membership

There could also be major costs such as all new furniture for all of the rooms that you might want to take an extra step with. If you expect that furniture to last 10 years, then you could divide that cost by 10. Use just a tenth of that cost in your burdened calculation to help keep from skewing the number. Just do this for major purchases like furniture, mattresses, and carpet.

To calculate the burdened cost look at your P&L again and at the bottom will be a list of total expenses.

Let’s use a number of $400,000. Take that number and divide it by the total number of rooms sold (this will be the same number you used for the incremental cost). Let’s use 10,000 room nights. $400,000 ÷ 10,000 room nights = $40. In America for a basic hotel usually the incremental cost is about $20 and the burdened cost is about $40. If you’re in a big city, or higher-end property these numbers, of course, will be higher.

So, what does this $40 number mean? If you are not consistently getting over $40 a night for your rooms, then you will soon be out of business!

Now, as we already mentioned you can dip below $40 for a short amount of time if it’s part of an overall strategy. Maybe January is a very slow month for your property, so you go to $30 on Sundays. This is $10 more than your $20 incremental cost meaning you can take the $10 you “profit” and use that to help offset your burdened costs like managers’ salaries.

You also might do this because you want to give your housekeepers a few more rooms to clean for the week and because it will help bring down the ADR (Average Daily Rate) for guests who are looking for longer LOS (Length of Stay).

A Word of Caution…

A word of caution when flirting with ultra-low rates even if it’s just for a short amount of time and as part of an overall strategy: there is a rate that is low enough that it starts to attract trouble. When I’ve run experiments of “how low can we go” at the properties I work with, we’ve found that number to be about $45.

Below that rate is when you start getting frequent visits from the cops and have lots of complaints of unruly guests. Suddenly those few extra dollars just aren’t worth it.

Conclusion

The first step in successful revenue management is knowing how much it costs to put someone in a room. The basic cost that guests use up by being on your property is the incremental cost, and for a budget hotel in America is often about $20. The big-picture, all-in cost that matters at the end of the year is the burdened cost and is usually about $40.

The biggest revenue management mistake that hoteliers make is not raising their rates high enough during times of high demand. You can read more about that and other top-six revenue management mistakes that hoteliers make by clicking here.

On the other end of that spectrum, you need to be competitive during times of low demand.

Going too low can cause you to get frequent visits from the cops and soon go out of business, but finding that sweet spot where you’re competitive and beating your competition on the rate is an effective strategy to steal market share.

Follow the process to figure both your incremental and burdened room cost and use those numbers to start your journey to successful revenue —-management.

——

Chris Hunter operates HotelRevenueMan.com and is a preferred partner and content contributor for Longitude Branding.

It’s the Small Things: Restaurant Micro-Experiences

The use of micro experiences is what makes a restaurant experience so unique, and it’s these experiences that create a more memorable dining experience for your guests, and fully activate your restaurant brand.

A guest will always keep in mind the quality of your customer service and the taste of your food, but it’s in the small and subtle details that the true essence and soul of your restaurant experience is put on display.

Imagine, for instance, walking into a new restaurant. You see and hear familiar sights and sounds; the melody of your songs and the aroma of your favorite food. You look up and are greeted with a warm smile by your server.

These moments are short and may not seem important, but these tiny moments will add up to create a lasting impression of the restaurant in your guest’s mind. The customer may not associate the positive thoughts about the restaurant back to that specific moment, yet still, it created a memorable restaurant experience.

Top 8 Ideas for In Restaurant Micro Experiences

There are a number of ways for a restaurant to use micro experiences to improve their guest’s experience. In fact, there are even marketing agencies who specialize in helping you create these “micro-experiences.” Here are my top eight suggestions for creating positive micro experiences for your restaurant’s guests. If you utilize these eight ideas, you are sure to obtain guest loyalty, helping you create a reliable source of business from repeat customers.

Not only that, but happy customers will share their experience with others, attracting even more new customers. Even if your business is already doing well, these eight tips can still help you create an even better experience for your customers.

1. Engaging Your Staff

Micro experiences can be implemented in almost every area of your restaurant, but one of the simplest ways to create a more memorable micro experience is by training your employees.

Now, I don’t mean that you simply teach them to do their job duties. You are likely already doing that. What I mean is that you should train your employees on how to create great impressions through micro experiences.

To do this you will need to explain the concept of micro experiences to them and provide them with real-life examples of how they can use the concept on the job. That way each of your staff members can create micro experiences that will induce guest loyalty.

You could put a reward system or program in place to encourage your staff to work on improving their communication with the guests. Or, reward employees for providing exceptional customer service and extending kindness towards customers.

Be sure that you help them see how a better guest experience can translate into their paycheck also. After all, happier and more loyal guests often will translate into higher check averages.

Another benefit of this would be keeping your employees happy and engaged. Employees who are engaged tend to care more about their job and work harder at it. After all, it’s really difficult to ask un-engaged and unhappy employees to create positive micro experiences.

2. Your Atmosphere & Service

Your restaurant should certainly have a good vibe and soul. A personal style goes a long way when it comes to creating a memorable dining experience for your guests. It’s just another subtle thing that will contribute to your guest’s overall impression.

Having a personalized style may seem like a minor detail, but it makes a huge impact. This alone could be the thing that sets your restaurant apart from the hundreds of others. A unique interior and aesthetic can make a customer excited to return. If you’re dining experience has evoked certain feelings that they don’t get anywhere else, then they’ll always return to you to feel that way again.

Maybe it’s the personalized style of decoration or a personal theme that provokes feelings of excitement, joy, and interest in your guests. Or it could be the way that your guests are greeted, and served that makes them feel at home. But remember, there’s a difference between providing great service and providing great hospitality. Hospitality is everything when it comes to building a memorable restaurant experience.

Danny Meyer put it well when he said,

“Service without soul, no matter how elegant, is quickly forgotten by the guest.”

Danny Meyer, Setting the Table

The guest’s surrounding and overall vibe of your restaurant can greatly impact the way the guest feels regarding your establishment. This can help your establishment to stand apart from the rest.

3. One-Of-A-Kind Menu Options

Of course, your food will leave an impression on your guests, but that’s not what I’m talking about here. I’m talking about the restaurant’s ‘signatures.’

I’m sure you can think of a restaurant that features one item that you can’t find anywhere else. McDonald’s “Big Mac,” Burger King’s “Whopper,” Red Lobster’s cheddar biscuits, or Taco Bell’s “Dorito” tacos are just a few examples.

People tend to know what they want before selecting where they will eat dinner.

By offering one of a kind menu options along with guest favorites, you will encourage customers to select your restaurant.

Once you create that one delicious item that only your restaurant can provide to guests, you will inspire your guest’s loyalty. They will flock to your restaurant to get that one of a kind item. These signature items are what makes your restaurant your own.

Your guest trying that one of a kind menu option is a micro experience in its own way. They will remember that signature item, how it made them feel, and associate it with your restaurant. So, you better make sure it’s good!

4. Beverage Programs & House Speciality Drinks

If your restaurant serves alcohol this is the perfect way to create memorable micro experiences. Serve house drinks or feature specialty drinks. Provide affordable alcoholic beverages. You could even host a happy hour.

People love to drink and have a good time. If you can do two things for them, those guests will be loyal to your restaurant for life. First, create a fun, laid back environment. Second, serve premium, great-tasting, and affordable alcohol.

It’s easier to create positive micro experiences when the guest has had a drink. They can be more relaxed, open, and open to dialogue. It will create a lasting impression of your restaurant.

People generally love alcohol, so if you can serve the guest’s favorite alcohol at an affordable price, you will attract a ton of business. If you can create a positive dining experience through the use of micro experiences, you will keep those guests coming back for more fun.

5. Unique & Comfortable Furniture

The furniture should fit your restaurant’s style but should also stand out and make a statement. It needs to to be comfortable, visually appealing, and different. Furnish your establishment with pieces the guest will remember fondly.

Your guest probably won’t dwell on the appearance of the furniture; they will just briefly consider it. However, in most instances, micro experiences can occur in just a short amount of time. On the same token, if your furniture is uncomfortable, odd-looking, or predictable and mediocre, the micro experience your guest will have will be a negative one.

In the brief moments that your furniture grasps the customer’s attention, the guest should feel positive about the appearance and comfort of the piece of furniture.

That positive thought will work alongside the alcohol, food, and atmosphere to create the guest’s overall full impression of your restaurant. Remember, the overall guest experience is just a collection of micro experiences that lead the guest to feel a certain type of way.

6. Quirky Fixtures & Decor

You’re probably wondering what I mean by quirky accessories. I’m referring to every non-furniture item in your restaurant. Decorations, wall decor, table pieces, etc. All of these FF&E elements throughout your restaurant will make an impact.

These small pieces can invoke certain feelings or be conversation starters. The restaurant fixtures and decor will contribute to the unique furniture and atmosphere. They should seamlessly blend in but stand out, or feel out of place.

To create a great micro experience with these quirky fixtures and decor you need the guest to first notice the piece. Then note that it is intriguing, cute, or different. The piece should ideally make the guest laugh, smile, ponder, or point it out to their dining companion.

These quirky accessories should be unique to your establishment. This is another micro experience idea that can set your establishment apart from the rest. The most successful restaurants utilize this idea; sometimes it comes naturally, but other times it takes some thinking to get it right.

7. Utilize Atmosphere & Ambiance

Before you can use an atmosphere to maintain positive micro experiences, you must create the atmosphere. You can customize your restaurant’s atmosphere with ambiance, sounds, scents, and textures. The atmosphere has to be felt by the guest.

You can do this by selecting a certain type of music that works with the restaurant theme. The ambiance, or lighting, plays a key role in creating an atmosphere.

Even the scent of your restaurant is important. In fact, there are companies that solely focus on “scent-marketing” such as Scent Air. This is a very interesting way to create an experience because studies have shown that 80%+ of customers are willing to spend more time in a place with a pleasant scent. Also, emotions are generated, in large part (75%), by specific scents we recall.

An enjoyable atmosphere will create an initial impression, but it will also contribute to the effect of each one of the guest’s micro experiences throughout their stay.

The atmosphere will affect everything, including your guest’s impressions of other people. Your atmosphere plays a big part in showing off the heart and soul of your establishment.

Ultimately the atmosphere of your restaurant will color the restaurant experience in a certain shade.

8. Keep it Clean!

Your goal is to create a positive dining experience, which involves a guest enjoying food. Because of this, your restaurant has to be clean.

Most people don’t really notice when a space is clean, however, they always notice when it is dirty.

That said, this idea is more about preventing negative micro experiences than creating a positive one. When serving food, cleanliness is the gold standard.

Think of this scenario, your guest has just received their food and they complement the server on its speedy delivery. Their mouth is watering as they inhale the delicious aromas. The guest and server exchange a smile.

So far, so good, right? Unfortunately, not, because the guest just picked up their fork and there was a hair sticking to it. The guest will now have to wait for a new fork and eat their meal with the memory of the dirty fork lingering on their mind.

That dirty fork just ruined an otherwise ideal micro experience. Had that fork been clean this guest would have had perfect restaurant experience.

3 Restaurants That Utilize Micro Experiences Well

The most successful restaurants utilize micro experiences in creating positive guest experiences. Theses restaurants who do this are able to stay relevant, popular, profitable and most importantly, in business.

Below are a few restaurants that utilize micro experiences well. Let me walk you through a guest’s experience at each establishment. Then you should review how they create great dining experiences through micro experiences.

Cracker Barrel

Cracker Barrel is a home-style restaurant that prioritizes the guest’s experience. The restaurant chain’s motto is ‘Pleasing People.’ The chain does such a great job at this, that they have one of the largest percentages of return customers.

Cracker Barrel is a home-style restaurant that prioritizes the guest’s experience. The restaurant chain’s motto is ‘Pleasing People.’ The chain does such a great job at this, that they have one of the largest percentages of return customers.

The restaurant pleases people by focusing on micro experiences. A guest walks in the front doors, entering the restaurant’s country store. The store features countless unique items, most of which are created solely for the restaurant.

An employee greets you at the door with a huge smile and inquires how you’re doing. You follow the sign pointing to the hostess station. At which point the host reviews the daily special and featured items.

As you are led to your seat, you notice the old fashion signs decorating the walls and lit lanterns at every table. You sit down on a wooden table, which features a homemade peg game.

The menu consists of country style favorites that are meant to remind you of sit-down meals, enjoyed with family. There are a few select meals like Grampa’s Breakfast and Uncle Herschel’s Favorite.

The restaurant has a personalized style that follows a central theme, and they extend their style into their decor and accessories. Cracker Barrel offers one of a kind menu option. They create an atmosphere with their friendly customer service and cozy table-top lanterns.

Roosters

Rooster’s claims to be, ‘A fun, causal joint.’ The restaurant features chicken wings but offers a variety of other American Foods. This restaurant is what it claims, pretty casual.

Upon entering the restaurant, you are greeted by a cashier, who will lead you to your seats. You’ll likely notice the high ceilings and light wooden furniture. The huge party table will stand out and the televisions will roar with the latest in sports.

You will definitely admire the sports memorabilia that covers the walls, but it will be the hilarious sayings displayed in black print on the square, white signs that capture your attention.

As you survey the menu, you’ll love the large selection of wing sauces, and intriguing list of appetizers. There is also a robust alcohol menu, that always includes bargain-priced featured drinks.

When you order, you’ll have to order the dumpster fries, or tots, as an appetizer. They are truly mouthwatering and come with a signature sauce.

Even the servers are casual in jeans, or jean shorts, and a blacktop. The bench tables are long enough to accompany a family or group of friends.

The restaurant uses micro experiences perfectly. They have a personalized style that contributes to the atmosphere of the restaurant. The funny signs are a great example of quirky fixtures and decor. The dumpster fries are one-of-a-kind menu option that you’ll have to try. Plus, bargain drinks are a great way to inspire guest loyalty.

The Cheesecake Factory

The finest of all the dining establishments on the list is The Cheesecake Factory. From the moment you approach the building, you will notice the attention to detail. The building itself has the shape of a factory.

In the winter this restaurant features fire heaters on the patio for waiting guests. When you enter the restaurant, you are greeted by a romantic style ambiance. There is both a bar and bakery located near the hostess station.

The host takes your name and seats you at the first available table. As you walk to your table you are navigated through an array of fancy tables with coat racks. When you take a seat, you can’t help but notice how comfortable and intimate your table is.

You can order a drink from an extensive beverage menu, which includes alcohol. Then you have a huge variety of meals to choose from. You can’t beat their signature chicken marsala.

The meal will be incredible and the service delightful, but the most impressive part of the evening will be the dessert. They don’t call it “The Cheesecake Factory” for nothing! You can select a huge slice of cheesecake from almost fifty options!

The server will box up any remaining food for you to take home with you. These restaurants are almost always located near shopping centers.

The Cheesecake Factory creates a memorable dining experience by creating micro experiences. They include the personal touch of the warmer, which extends caring thoughts towards their guests. The restaurant features exquisite furniture, one of a kind menu option. Come on, fifty types of cheesecake? Plus, the restaurant features a personalized style and atmosphere.

Conclusion

As you read through the list of ideas and restaurants that utilize the ideas perfectly to created incredible micro experiences that lead the guest to have a memorable dining experience, do you notice anything?

Each of these items has to do with the way the guest feels. That is the key to creating great micro experiences.

You have to make the guest feel something positive and the stronger that positive feeling is the better.

When a guest associates positive feelings with your restaurant, you are successfully creating memorable micro experiences. This is how you obtain guest loyalty and customer satisfaction.

Do you notice how these three restaurants create micro experiences? Every aspect of their establishment is geared towards their potential guests. These establishments have put a large amount of thought into what will grab their customer’s attention and invoke certain feelings.

If you want to improve your guest’s dining experiences, you will need to create great micro experiences too. The guests will create them with or without your help. You will need to gear their attention towards things that will reflect your establishment in a positive light.

Restaurant micro experiences create a memorable dining experience for your guests. You need to make sure their micro experiences are positive and fulfill the guest’s expectations for your establishment.

10 Brand Activation Ideas for Your Restaurant

As a restaurant owner, you are likely always looking for new ways to draw more people to your restaurant’s food and services. However, restaurant branding, and marketing can be more difficult than you think. Not only do you need to draw them, you also need to keep them coming back for more.

This is where brand activation comes in. Brand activation is key to getting consumers from simply browsing your menu to actually visiting your restaurant and eating your food.

In this article, we will discuss ten brand activation ideas to help drive more consumer action to your restaurant. If you want to find out how to elevate your restaurant’s marketing impact, keep on reading.

What Is Brand Activation?

Brand activation is a relatively new marketing idea. Essentially, it is the idea of motivating consumer action through a variety of experiences. In other words, it is about drawing attention to brands by creating unique interactions that result in long-term connections with consumers.

Brand activation typically occurs in the form of activation events.

Activation events are one-time, exclusive events that encourage consumers to interact with a brand, see a brand in a new way, and draw more in-store or in-restaurant activity. The key is that brand activation events have to be unique, memorable, and shareable.

It should be said that brand activation events or campaigns can utilize a variety of methods, such as:

  • Consumer promotions
  • Sampling campaigns
  • Shopper marketing
  • Digital campaigns
  • Experiential marketing

Whatever method you use is up to you and your circumstances. Just remember that the goal is to create a distinct experience that ups the notoriety of your company or restaurant.

1. Utilize Social Media

Social media is easily one of the most definitive aspects of our daily culture. As a matter of fact, 54% of social media users use social media to research products and interact with a brand. So, if your consumers are not talking about your restaurant or brand on social media, you are definitely not connecting with them well enough.

An easy way to generate some attention on social media is to get consumers to post about your brand. This could be anything from simply sharing a photo post about your food and reviews to sharing promotional content.

For example, Sonic did an experiential campaign at Coachella. They sold square-shaped milkshakes during the music festival that could only be purchased through Instagram.

Another great idea is to use social media to hold contests or giveaways.

Domino’s held a fun giveaway on Instagram called the Piece of the Pie Contest. Essentially, Domino’s fans or consumers had to take a photo that showed they are a super fan. The most elaborate photo won a grand prize of $10,000, but Domino’s gained more fan interaction than ever before.

Social media is a great avenue for boosting your brand’s followers and visibility. Fun, interactive social media campaigns are an exciting way to get more consumers to try your food.

2. Leverage Common Problems

The basis of selling any type of product, including food, is that you are solving some common problem or need. The same idea can apply to brand activation events for your restaurant.

For example, when summer festival season hits, the heat can be a major downer on any person’s day. However, bring awareness to your own brand by supplying guests with refreshing drinks or a fun way to cool down.

Vitamin water put a clever spin on this idea by providing music festival guests with a fun misting station. With this quirky, interactive idea, consumers got to cool down and Vitaminwater was able to gain more exposure for their brand.

You should also consider getting a stand at your local farmer’s market. If your restaurant is offering new menu items, this is a great opportunity to offer samples and build up interest in your restaurant.

3. Create Fun & Unique Consumer Experiences

Like we mentioned above, the key to a successful brand activation campaign is that it is unique and cannot be easily replicated.

The events you create surrounding your restaurant have to be unexpected and something your customers have not experienced before.

One great way to create a unique restaurant branding experience is to make use of pop-up shops or cafes. Pop-ups are essentially temporary retail spaces that give companies an opportunity to sell their product in a completely personalized space. For restaurants, it is a great opportunity to present their food or service in a fun new way.

For example, Subway set up a pop-up outdoor salad bar. Subway’s goal was two-fold: encourage healthy eating and to promote their new Salad of the Day menu option. It was a smart way to promote their new menu while also playing on consumer’s desire for healthier and more readily available produce.

Another fun twist was Quaker’s pop-up breakfast vending machines. This unique play on the traditional pop-up shop featured a large vending machine with two workers dressed as robots doling out free breakfast. To make the experience even better, each oatmeal dish was specially prepared according to each consumer’s taste.

Remember, the key here is that you want consumers to activate or act on your brand. You want to create activities that will put the product in your consumers’ hands so they can get a well-rounded experience.

That also means ensuring that your event does not stagnate. For example, if you have a large event, try to intersperse smaller activities or experiences while people are waiting around. Try to aim for collaborative activities as it will encourage a more light-hearted, open environment at your event.

4. Make Learning About Your Company Fun

If you want more people to care about your brand, it is important that you share its roots. Sharing the who, what, why and how of your brand is important to help consumers connect with your brand’s values. However, instead of just trying to tell people about your brand, one of the best restaurant marketing ideas is to teach them more about your restaurant methods, such as cooking classes or recipe development.

A cool example is Haagen-Daz’s sensory dessert schools. Haagen-Daz set up their two-day dessert school to teach how sight, sound, and scent contributed to tasting ice cream. However, Haagen-Daz elevated the pop-up event with talks by major social media influencers and Haagen-Daz ice cream tester, Alison Gray.

Nespresso did the same with a sensorial coffee club pop-up. The Nespresso Connoisseur Club is a traveling culinary adventure, featuring taste tests and classes by Michelin starred chefs. It is an opportunity for Nespresso to share their brand in a new upscale light that is deeply immersive and informative.

Bringing consumers into the fold of what your brand does behind the scenes is a great way to establish a trusting relationship with them.

Not only do they get to learn about your specific restaurant and your products, but they also have a growing appreciation for your work.

5. Make Your Events VIP

A simple way to develop stronger relationships with consumers is to make your brand activation events exclusive. Now, it seems counterintuitive at first. By making an event exclusive to a specific group of consumers, you are obviously excluding other consumers.

However, making events VIP will help you develop stronger emotional connections with consumers. Those consumers who are a part of the exclusive group will feel more valued and will develop a stronger bond with your brand. This way they are more motivated to share your brand with other people.

Moreover, on a logistical note, making events exclusive is also a smart, budget-friendly idea. If you don’t have a huge marketing budget, all you can afford is a short-term branding event.

However, influencers and local media are more drawn to short-term events, especially if they are fresh and creative. This way the more tight-knit an event feels the more people want to be involved or in the know. And, as we said, the more exclusive an event is the more likely people feel the need to share it online.

6. Be Spontaneous

If you truly want to be remembered by consumers, do something memorable and completely unexpected. For example, Lipton Iced Tea completely took London by surprise when they stuck a 100-meter, bright yellow water slide in the middle of the morning commute.

The day-long event encouraged people to come out and bring their swimsuits and pool inflatables with them. And all throughout the even, Lipton employees handed out samples of a variety of Lipton products while also promoting the Daybreaker event series.

This is the time to think out of the box. The more creative you are the better because it will help you stand out from your competition.

From using slip and slides to using flashmobs, you don’t have to stick with a basic food service setting to promote your brand.

7. Utilize Technology

The heart of brand activation events is their face-to-face interaction that digital marketing can overlook. However, this does not mean you should completely discount technology. As a matter of fact, your restaurant branding events should be so memorable that your consumers can’t help but whip out their phones to share it.

If you are holding a pop-up shop, encourage attendees to share pictures, videos and to even make a hashtag. However, you can take your branding game to a whole new level by making social media an active part of the event. Take, for example, Marmite’s positivity recording pop-up cafes.

Marmite opened up a Twitter pop-up shop that used social media as a means of payment. When patrons would enter the shop, they would give their social media handle. The pop-up cafe then uses a “Love-O-Meter” to analyze tweets to see if they are sharing positive or negative messages online.

If you are identified as a positive, loving spirit, you are given a sample of a Marmite summer snack. This is a great twist on using the power of technology and social media. Here, technology and social media actively play a part in the success of the branding event.

You can even go simpler than that. If you are holding a cocktail party, provide a variety of photobooths and award the most creative photo at the end of the event.

You can host a food scavenger hunt and have participants hunt down food-related clues. When they find the answer, they can just snap a picture and send it via text.

Whatever method you choose, you can be sure that technology will help your brand interact with consumers in a fun, immersive way.

8. Get Your Team & Staff Involved

If you really want your brand to stick out, it is important to get your team on board with branding events. Due to their close relationship with your company and brand, they are easily one of your best promotional resources.

Try to get your team involved from the very beginning. Inform them of your idea and get their feedback. They might have some cool ideas that could improve your idea.

Bringing your team in on brand activation ideas is integral to having a successful and memorable event. First, well-informed staff will ensure that the whole event is flowing like a well-oiled machine. In turn, you can ensure all guests or consumers are getting the best experience.

Secondly, getting your team involved is a great way to have them brush up on their knowledge of the brand. Their ability to share the history and roots of the brand and cool, hidden details can help build brand loyalty with consumers. Moreover, it can build brand loyalty within the team itself.

9. Communicate Your Brand’s Values

A successful branding event gets consumers to understand and align with a brand’s values.

Shared values are the basis of establishing a strong bond with your consumers.

That being said, if you are struggling to think of brand event ideas, go back to your roots and build off of your values.

As one of the most value-driven brands, Ben & Jerry’s does this particularly well. During the Big Ice Screening Film Festival, Ben & Jerry’s established a bike-powered pop-up outdoor theatre.

For three days, consumers could engage in a multitude of childhood games and get food and drinks from a variety of stalls. However, the highlight of the event was Ben & Jerry’s effort to use renewable energy for the entire event.

The event had stationary bikes that were used to power the movie screen. In addition, they also employed green energy, hybrid power source provided by Firefly.

The entire event was really to promote Ben & Jerry’s newest ice cream flavor. However, it was further bolstered by the brand’s commitment to environmental causes.

Although elaborate, outlandish ideas are sure to draw attention to you, working off of your values is sure to keep people around. And committing to those values consistently only shows consumers that you are a reliable and dedicated company. In turn, people will only want to support and interact with your brand more.

10. Help Your Consumers Help Others

An excellent way to get your consumers to interact with your brand and to further promote your values is to help your consumers help others. More often than not, people see issues that they want to help with or change but do not know where to start.

This is a great opportunity for your company to step up to the plate and bridge the gap between important issues and potential solutions.

One great example of this is Skittles’ Holiday Candy Pawnshop Pop-up. The four-day branding event allowed consumers to bring in their unwanted items and trade them for candy. All of the collected items were then donated to a Goodwill ReUse center.

This could easily be replicated for your restaurant branding. Maybe during the holidays take canned food donations in exchange for a meal at your restaurant. Another great idea is to get the community involved in a huge potluck for the local homeless shelter.

Not only does your brand gain more visibility, but it also gains visibility for positive reasons. Moreover, this will make people more attracted to your brand because they know if they are supporting your brand, they are also supporting a good cause.

Conclusion

As technology and digital media continue to evolve, learning to market for your brand continues to grow more complicated. Fortunately, brand activation events give you an opportunity to get your brand on the front-lines without the risk of blending in with the competition.

Activation events allow you to repackage your products and share them in a whole new way. Moreover, activation events bring your in-store or in-restaurant traffic to new heights and allow you to build more meaningful relationships with your consumers.

So long as you focus on your audience and focus on making your experiences unique and shareable, brand activation events can help you ride the tide of changing trends.

Earn More 5-Star Reviews with These 8 Reputation Management Tips

There’s no doubt that managing your online reputation and reviews is important, but just how important is it?

Check out some of these statistics from a study conducted by BrightLocal:

  • 93% of people will look at your reviews to determine if you’re a good or bad place to visit.
  • 91% of people age 18-34 years old, trust online reviews just as much as recommendations from friends or family.
  • On average, people will read 10 reviews before feeling like they can trust your business.

Online reviews are super important! So, what can we do to make sure every customer walks away feeling like they had a five-star experience?

Below are some tips to help you earn more 5-star reviews, and be better equipped to manage your reputation.

1. Know When to Correctly Ask for A Review

Do not simply ask customers to leave you positive reviews. To do this would be too forward and demanding. Yet, you certainly do get more reviews when you politely ask for them.

So how can you ask for a review from customers in a way that will be encouraging, instead of desperate? The last thing you’d want is to appear too pushy. Not only that, but this type of behavior is frowned upon by sites such as Yelp.

So here’s an easy way to do it.

When you speak with customers after a stay, a meal or a purchase, consider politely asking for reviews from those of your patrons who had great experiences with your establishment. You can ask them for reviews on Google, Yelp, Facebook, and TripAdvisor – which are the top 4 review sites that every restaurant or hotel should monitor.

If you have their email address, you can also email them after their stay with a link directly to your company’s site, making it easier for them to leave a review. You can even use programs like Podium to automatically help customers post positive ratings on social media platforms.

2. Know How to Manage Your Online Listings

The best thing to do is to follow five easy rules to manage your online reviews. You will want to always make sure you are acting quickly and with a sense of compassion when it comes to managing these reviews.

Firstly, know how to answer back.

Use the proper tone and words for the situation at hand. Do not fight back with a customer over a bad review.

Rather, you can try to spin it in a positive way. Offer a solution.

Even simply acknowledging the situation can sometimes be enough.

Second, make sure you write back fast.

This is the age of now. Bad reviews can go around like the plague, so handle it quickly.

A fast response shows that you really care about the customer, too.

Third, make sure you know about social marketing.

These days, over 90% of buying decisions are influenced by social media.

You must know how to connect with your followers and your reviewers. Offer them something in return for leaving a review. This generates positive feedback for you and demonstrates loyalty to the followers.

Fourth, stay current.

Keep reviews fresh and up to date.

This lends credibility to your online presence and has an impact on your sales conversions, too.

Lastly, don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Effective reputation management can sometimes be a lot of work and require a significant amount of time. But it’s important.

Many restaurants will hire an agency to help take some of that burden of their shoulds to manage their reputation, and that is often a good choice for them.

Also, there are plenty of reputation management tools and services can be very helpful. For instance, you can be notified when a negative review is posted thanks to various programs and applications, some of which are tailored to your business.

We’ve seen them utilized by all types of hospitality brands.

3. Make Sure Your Guest Experience is Worth 5 Stars

There are many things you can do to make sure your guests have a five-star experience. You may not be running the Ritz-Carlton, but you can absolutely treat your guests like they are the most valued clientele ever.

The best things you can do for your customers is to ensure they have a great experience by…

Being Attentive and Responsive to them.

Keep true to the norms of your platform. 24-hour response time is acceptable for email, but 24 hours on social media is a no-no. The ability to respond in minutes is ideal and demonstrates a great online presence, plus care about your clients’ needs.

Knowing Ahead of Time What Their Needs Are.

You are the expert in your field-flex that muscle and show them you know your stuff! You might even offer a deal on that particular part or service as a means to get them to come back to you when the time comes.

Being Honest and Transparent.

Honesty is the best policy, and it is true more than ever when it comes to your establishment.

This is the age of the internet where people of all walks of life share stories and experiences. Lying about something would only tarnish your reputation- so just be honest from the get-go.

Actively Being Involved in Solving the Conflict

Taking responsibility and solving the problem yourself is a huge win. Pawning it off onto someone else looks sloppy and delays conflict resolution. Once you have figured a solution, follow up with your client and verify that needs are met or better yet, exceeded!

Being Ready, and Happy, To Help Your Customers

A positive attitude works wonders for customers. Smile! Act like they are the only customers you have helped today.

4. Be Active Online

Make sure that you are active on all of your social media profiles.

In this manner, people are more likely to come to you if they have a problem instead of going directly to a review website.

Just an email is not enough. Even if it is plainly listed, many people think twice about contacting in this method. The way to work around this is relatively easy: have an online presence.

Make sure you put a face to the name and utilize social media. Write about your establishment in blog posts, post on Facebook and Instagram, and be sure you have an “About Us” page that is current.

Lastly, be sure all your contact information is clearly listed, and you include turnaround time for when you will contact your client back.

5. Make Sure You Apologize

Apologizing is the name of the game in some situations when it comes to having a small business, or a large one, for that matter.

But knowing when to do so is important, too. Be sure that you are keeping a close eye on what people are posting. No matter how great their stay was or how easy it is to reach your team, there are bound to be a few negative words posted.

Many customers who have had an experience that was less than savory really just want their situation to be acknowledged. They may want to speak with you directly, or they may have posted an online review.

In any case, you should always apologize whether the problem is real or perceived. You can say that you are sorry the experience was not up to par, and that you hope the next one is much better for them.

The best thing, of course, is to use the right words and tone, and always be sincere when you say your apology.

6. Amplify Your Positive Reviews on Social Media

Sometimes we become too “enamored” or wrapped up in responding to those who have left us negative reviews. This is certainly important as we want to make sure we can fix the problem and get them to come back for another chance.

However, you should take pride in your positive reviews just as much. You can and should absolutely share the positive feedback you get on your blog or social media profiles.

After all, we discussed earlier how much of a role social media plays in consumers’ buying decisions. Why not create a positive image for yourself using real reviews from happy clients?

7. Be Easy to Reach

I cannot stress enough how important it is that your contact information is up to date and gets customers to an employee that can help them solve any issues.

Having an email address with a turnaround time for responses listed, a phone number where a human being can be reached, as well as a social media account that is active and thriving are all ways consumers can easily reach you.

The important thing is to make sure your clientele know that they can easily and directly reach you in the event they encounter any problems with their purchase or service.

8. Change Things Based Upon Feedback

Customers always have ideas and suggestions about how things can be improved. Some are actually good ideas, others are not. It is still very important that you read through them, however.

You might see some common themes or trends emerge that could be worth acting upon.

For instance, if you note that several customers had issues with your payment vendor, it may be time to contract with a new one. If several clients noted that a particular server brought them the wrong order, consider coaching or retraining that server or finding them a better job fit.

When you make big or small changes based upon customer feedback, this shows you really care what they have to say and makes a big impact on the experience for customers in the present and future.

Conclusion

So, what are your ideas for creating a guest experience like no other? I’d love to know your thoughts. Feel free to send me an email at jeremy@longitudebranding.com

Also, if you found this article helpful, we’d appreciate if you could share this with your network. Thanks!

5 Menu Engineering Hacks to Raise Check Averages and Increase Profits

As business owners and restaurateurs, we want to ensure we are doing all that is possible to increase the profits that your establishment enjoys. The way in which your menu is structured is critical to this. So, having a good menu strategy is going to be the ticket to success.

In this article, we will discuss five great ways and best practices for menu engineering to get those numbers up.

Simple things like a great menu layout, item count and even the visuals of your menu play a role in how well you do in terms of earnings. Continue reading to learn more.

1. Category and Item Placement

Your menu items are not just breakfast, lunch or dinner.

They are not called “apps”, “entrees”, or “sweet endings” either. Rather, menu items should be categorized in a rather creative and fun way: Stars, Plowhorses, Puzzles, and Dogs.

  • Stars: These are the items that bring you max profits and are also super popular with your customers.
  • Plowhorses: Like a tried and true classic, these dishes drive customers to your restaurant, but have low profitability despite their popularity.
  • Puzzles: These dishes appeal to a “niche” crowd-a certain few customers-but they bring in good profits.
  • Dogs: Like a load of stones weighing down your wagon, these foods have low profitability and are rather low in popularity, too.

You have to know which item fits into each category. This is going to be critical for putting your menu items in the right place. You should review the numbers from your Point of Sale system to accurately categorize the items.

And, after you categorize the items, be sure the names are accurate sales drivers. What do we mean by this? Well, what sounds more fun: “Grandma Bea’s Secret Spicy Jambalaya” or “Sausage plus some veggies and spices”? “Uncle Jon’s Ultimate Grilled Cheese” or “Some cheese and bread”?

When it comes to getting sales up, naming your menu items is crucial.

When it comes to getting sales up, naming your menu items is crucial. When you name an item with a quirky or exotic sounding moniker, you invite people to try it.

You make your less adventurous customers into “try-ers” of the unthinkable. Choose the way to name your dishes in a way that corresponds with your target demographic and stays true to your restaurant’s brand.

No matter what direction you choose, aim to have these names do the following: Whet the appetite, show off an ingredient, or appeal to a certain taste.

One strategy of menu development is to create less appealing descriptions for the Dogs and Plowhorses foods, which generate more for the Stars and the Puzzles.

2. Design Your Menu with Care

So, you have gone through the POS and figured out where your Dogs, Plowhorses, Stars, and Puzzles are. You re-evaluated the names and descriptions and perhaps had a creative person or freelancer write up some menu description ideas, they look great.

But how can you really maximize your menu design?

First, make sure you are pointing out specific menu offerings. Use visuals to show off the items you really want to sell. Place a box around the dish, put a photo nearby, put a star next to it. Indicate it is a “chef special” or use another special identifier.

You might consider highlighting one special item in each category-one dessert, one main dish, one app, and so on.

People are more apt to choose menu items that are very descriptive.

People are more apt to choose menu items that are very descriptive. So, in your descriptions, make sure you do more than list off the ingredients of that meal.

Use words and text that pique the interest and taste of your customer. Tell the tale behind “Grandma Bea’s Secret Spicy Jambalaya” to make it more human to your guest.

Did you know you can also use eye hacks to get people’s attention? Most people shoot their eyes up to the top of the page, or the right corner.

The bulk of your guests are more likely to order the first item they gaze upon when reading your menu. The item that gets the most attention after that is the last one on the list. So, keep lists short and sweet, putting the stars at the top, puzzles at the bottom, and plowhorses in the center.

3. Avoid These Menu Mess-Ups

One great way to maximize restaurant sales is to have a foolproof menu! That is, one that is built without making any of these menu mistakes:

  • Having too many items.
  • Being driven solely by cost.
  • Having a terrible organization
  • Not having any upsell options
  • No use of ordering psychology.

Having too many menu items makes the list way too long and overwhelms the customer. Guests take longer deciding what to order.

The turnaround time for tables then slows down and takes a while for guests to leave. You end up serving fewer and fewer people, and sales hurt. Get rid of what’s not doing well.

Get rid of what’s not doing well.

In terms of price, do not list menu items that have different price points altogether. Guests choose the cheaper items which hurt sales.

Price should not be the main point of a menu. Prices should be the same size and style as the menu text. Prices should not be the first thing a guest sees when reading the menu.

Having a terrible organization of the menu is not helping anybody. Organize the food logically. Appetizers go in one section. Sandwiches in another. Entrees in another. Desserts should be after meals.

Guests are then drawn to the logical order of food-drinks, appetizers, meals, dessert. If you offer, say, sandwiches first, guests might skip the appetizer altogether.

Upselling is another opportunity not to miss. Your servers are probably trained well to upsell, but the menu helps too. All modifications a customer can make should be clearly listed. If you offer salads, offer the chance to add special toppings or a protein.

Be sure to list the prices, too. This helps the servers focus on other things and sells more to your customers without saying a word.

Lastly, one must understand basic ordering psychology. Remember, guests look at the top right corner first. Put your high margin meals up there. And don’t miss out on the chance to use photos in your menu. This works to upsell an item like a dream.

Photos and other designs should be used strategically-if there are too many photos or items featured, it can backfire on drawing attention to the meals you really want your guests to see.

4. Implement Some Solid Pricing Strategies

You can use some cool menu hacks to get your pricing to an advantageous place. For instance, everybody wants steak, but they can’t afford it. So, they order a burrito with steak or a salad with steak, just as tasty. Here are some ways menu engineers hack the touchy subject of price:

  • Put the expensive stuff up front: If you put more expensive food first, everything that comes after it seems pretty reasonable. This takes advantage of the “anchoring” cognitive bias, in which humans tend to rely greatly on the first piece of info offered to them when it comes to making choices.
  • Get rid of the dollar sign. On a lot of swanky menus, you notice the dollar sign is missing. This is because it is a pain point for guests. They know they are parting with hard earned money to be there. You might round down dollar signs, such as making a menu item 9.95 instead of 10. You might also phase out numbers on the whole, but this only works with a specific audience.

If you put more expensive food first, everything that comes after it seems pretty reasonable.

5. Train Staff Accordingly

Your staff is the greatest asset to your restaurant! Do not forget to train them on your menu design. They speak to your guests each and every day.

Your staff is the greatest asset to your restaurant!

Be sure that you teach them what items have priority over others. They can, in turn, help your customers find your most profitable meals and use in-house marketing to make the experience more delicious, memorable, and encourage repeat business.

After all, customers who are looking at your menu are ready to make that purchase. Why not take advantage of these and other great menu hacks to ensure they pick out the most profitable items on your list?

No matter how great you are doing, there is always a chance to improve. You can easily generate more profit by just making sure you have a great menu design with a few tweaks here and there to ensure people are looking at the stuff that generates the most money for your establishment.

The best thing to do is not fall into a rut-make sure your restaurant changes with the times by testing out new menu designs on a continuous basis.

In Conclusion

A great restaurant menu strategy is not so difficult when you know the right tricks and hacks to make it work. With just a little tweaking and some serious revision of your menu, you could very well see an uptick in sales before you know it.

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